Mitch Kapor

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Mitch Kapor
Kapor in 2005
Mitchell David Kapor

(1950-11-01) November 1, 1950 (age 73)
EducationYale University (BA)
Beacon College of Boston (MS)
MIT Sloan School of Management
Known forLotus 1-2-3 and co-founder of The Electronic Frontier Foundation
Spouse(s)Ellen M. Poss (divorced)
Freada Kapor Klein

Mitchell David Kapor (/ˈkpɔːr/ KAY-por; born November 1, 1950[1][2]) is an American entrepreneur best known for his work as an application developer in the early days of the personal computer software industry, later founding Lotus, where he was instrumental in developing the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet. He left Lotus in 1986. In 1990 with John Perry Barlow and John Gilmore, he co-founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and served as its chairman until 1994. In 2003, he became the founding chair of the Mozilla Foundation, creator of the open source web browser Firefox. Kapor has been an investor in the personal computing industry, and supporter of social causes via Kapor Capital[3] and the Kapor Center.[4] He serves on the board of SMASH,[5] a non-profit founded by his wife, Freada Kapor Klein, to help underrepresented scholars hone their STEM knowledge while building personal networks and skills for careers in tech and the sciences.[6][7][8]

Early life and education[edit]

Kapor was born to a Jewish family[9] in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Freeport, New York on Long Island, where he graduated from high school in 1967.[1] He received a B.A. from Yale College in 1971 and studied psychology, linguistics, and computer science in an interdisciplinary major, also attending the Boston-based Beacon College, which had a satellite campus in Washington, D.C. at the time. He began but did not complete a master's degree at the MIT Sloan School of Management but later served on the faculty of the MIT Media Lab and the University of California, Berkeley School of Information.



Kapor and his business partner Jonathan Sachs founded Lotus in 1982 with backing from Ben Rosen. Lotus' first product was presentation software for the Apple II known as Lotus Executive Briefing System. Kapor founded Lotus after leaving his post as head of development at VisiCorp, the distributors of the VisiCalc spreadsheet, and selling all his rights to VisiPlot and VisiTrend to VisiCorp.

Shortly after Kapor left VisiCorp, he and Sachs produced an integrated spreadsheet and graphics program. Even though IBM and VisiCorp had a collaboration agreement whereby VisiCalc was being shipped simultaneously with the PC, Lotus had a clearly superior product. Lotus released Lotus 1-2-3 on January 26, 1983. Its name referred to the three ways the product could be used: as a spreadsheet, graphics package, and database manager. In practice, the latter two functions were less often used, but 1-2-3 was the most powerful spreadsheet program available.

Lotus was almost immediately successful, becoming the world's third-largest microcomputer software company in 1983 with $53 million in sales in its first year,[10] compared to its business plan forecast of $1 million. Jerome Want says:

Under founder and CEO Mitch Kapor, Lotus was a company with few rules and fewer internal bureaucratic barriers... Kapor decided that he was no longer suited to running a company, and [in 1986] he replaced himself with Jim Manzi.[11]

Digital rights activism[edit]

Kapor was extensively involved in initiatives that created the modern Internet. He co-founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 1990 and was its chairman until 1994. EFF defends civil liberties in the digital world and works to ensure that rights and freedoms are enhanced and protected as the use of technology grows.[12][13][14][15]

Kapor attended the first Wikimania in 2005.[16]


Kapor was the founding investor in UUNET, one of the first, and the largest among, early Internet service providers; in RealNetworks, the Internet's first streaming media company; and in Linden Lab, maker of the first successful virtual world, Second Life. He was also founding chair of the Commercial Internet eXchange (CIX).

In 2003, he became the founding chair of the Mozilla Foundation, creator of the open source web browser Firefox.

He serves on the advisory board of the Sunlight Foundation.[17] In May 2009, after founder Susan P. Crawford joined the Obama administration, Kapor took over chairmanship of OneWebDay—the "Earth Day for the internet". In 1996, the Computer History Museum named him a Museum Fellow "for his development of Lotus 1-2-3, the first major software application for the IBM PC".[18] He founded the Mitchell Kapor Foundation to support his philanthropic interests in environmental health.

As an active angel investor, Kapor participated in the initial rounds of Dropcam, Twilio, Asana, Cleanify and Uber.

Kapor Center and Kapor Capital[edit]

Kapor founded the Kapor Center in 2000 as an institution focused on tech inclusion and social impact.[19] The institution's mission is to invest in social and financial capital in vital non-profit organizations.[20]

As part of the Kapor Center, Kapor Capital is its venture capital arm,[21] which has operated since 2011.[22] As of 2018, it has made over 160 investments, primarily in information technology seed-stage startups, with a particular focus on diversity.[23]

Since 2016, the Kapor Center for Social Impact, Kapor Capital, and SMASH have been located in the Uptown neighborhood of Oakland, CA.[24]

Diversity in technology[edit]

In August 2015, Mitch and Freada Kapor announced they would invest $40 million over three years to accelerate their work to make the tech ecosystem more inclusive.[25][6][7][26]

In addition to his roles at Kapor Capital and Kapor Center, Mitch currently serves on the board of SMASH, whose mission is to enhance equal opportunity in education and the workplace, and sits on the advisory board of Generation Investment Management, a firm whose vision is to embed sustainability into the mainstream capital markets.[27][28]

Personal life[edit]

Kapor is married to Freada Kapor Klein and resides in Oakland and Healdsburg, California.[29] Both served on the board of trustees of the Summer Science Program from 2004 to 2006. He was a student of the program in 1966.[30]

Awards and honors[edit]

  • 1985 – Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement[31]
  • 2003 – Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility Norbert Wiener Award
  • 2005 – EFF Pioneer Award
  • 2010 – REDF Inno+prise Award
  • 2015 – Ford Legacy Award
  • 2018 – Elon University Medal for Entrepreneurial Leadership

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Mitchell Kapor: Biography". Archived from the original on 2019-02-21. Retrieved 2007-08-02.
  2. ^ "Mitchell Kapor".
  3. ^ Kapor Capital
  4. ^ Kapor Center
  5. ^ SMASH
  6. ^ a b Garofoli, Joe (August 3, 2015). "Oakland's Kapors spend $40 million to help diversify tech world". San Francisco Chronicle.
  7. ^ a b Berry, Jahna (August 5, 2015). "Tech power couple Mitch Kapor and Freada Kapor Klein give $40 million to make tech industry more diverse". American City Business Journals.
  8. ^ Garling, Caleb (August 24, 2013). "Mitchell Kapor seeks to meld business, social good". San Francisco Chronicle.
  9. ^ Wall, Alix (November 2, 2017). "Meet the Oakland philanthropists trying to diversify the tech world". J. The Jewish News of Northern California.
  10. ^ Caruso, Denise (1984-04-02). "Company Strategies Boomerang". InfoWorld. pp. 80–83.
  11. ^ Jerome H. Want (2007). Corporate Culture: Illuminating the Black Hole. Macmillan. p. 55. ISBN 9780312354848.
  12. ^ "Where Is the Digital Highway Really Heading?". Wired. March 1, 1993.
  13. ^ Goodall, Jeff (June 10, 1993). "Mitch Kapor: Civilizing Cyberspace". Rolling Stone.
  14. ^ JESDANUN, ANICK (July 5, 2006). "Defending liberties in high-tech world". MSNBC. Associated Press.
  15. ^ Gonsalves, Antone (September 6, 2005). "Mitch Kapor Backs Open Source Software For Simplifying Internet TV". InformationWeek.
  16. ^ Lih, Andrew (2009). The Wikipedia Revolution: How a Bunch of Nobodies Created the World's Greatest Encyclopedia. London: Aurum. p. 8. ISBN 9781845134730. OCLC 280430641. Mitch Kapor, founder of Lotus Development Corporation, made the trip on his own time.
  17. ^ "Board and Advisory Board". Sunlight Foundation.
  18. ^ "Mitch Kapor 1996 Fellow". Computer History Museum. 18 April 2024.
  19. ^ "Mitchell Kapor Foundation". GuideStar.
  20. ^ "Kapors pledge $40 million investment in tech diversity". USA TODAY. August 4, 2015.
  21. ^ "Company Overview of Kapor Capital". Bloomberg L.P. 22 May 2023.
  22. ^ Kapor Capital (2019-05-08). Kapor Capital Impact Report (Report). p. 1.
  23. ^ "Who We Are - Kapor Capital". Kapor Capital.
  24. ^ "Kapor Center seeks to diversify tech while promoting Oakland Uptown Neighborhood". Fox 2 KTVU. July 20, 2016.
  25. ^ Guynn, Jessica (August 4, 2015). "Kapors pledge $40 million investment in tech diversity". USA TODAY.
  26. ^ "40 Diverse People In Tech Who Made Big Moves In 2015". TechCrunch.
  27. ^ Hunter, Brooke (December 29, 2015). "Let's Celebrate 2015 as a Year of Progress in Tech Inclusion". Slate. ISSN 1091-2339.
  28. ^ FALLOWS, JAMES (November 2015). "The (Planet-Saving, Capitalism-Subverting, Surprisingly Lucrative) Investment Secrets of Al Gore". The Atlantic.
  29. ^ Haber, Matt (May 2, 2014). "Oakland: Brooklyn by the Bay". The New York Times.(subscription required)
  30. ^ Cringely, Robert X. (1996). Accidental Empires: How the Boys of Silicon Valley Make Their Millions, Battle Foreign Competition, and Still Can't Get a Date. Addison-Wesley. p. 95. ISBN 9780887306211.
  31. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.

Further reading[edit]


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